You Can Keep

your diaphanous virgins
your horse and bull stories
your rites of spring
I can do
very well thank you
without swan
or unicorn.

Keep your
wishbone and your big
cigar your mighty Stetson and
your twelve-string
guitar I know
how to please my
self how to saddle
my own steed.

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The Hive

a jumbled cluster of odd-shaped cells
and honey pots, all made from dark yellow
wax, like earwax or like extruded foam
insulation. All winter the disordered mess

of a half-finished construction project,
now ready to be retrofit into two cedar
raised beds—so I am cleaning
up back there, taking up the tarps
and throwing out shredded fiberglass,

and scraps of wood, a papery layer
of old leaves, screws and such,
and turning over the last
bits a buzzing: here are they
a small, primitive colony

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The Salton Sea

It is an hour before sunrise on the western edge of the Salton Sea. The moon has set this early January morning and the stars are either falling in or away—depending on how long you look.

To the east the horizon seems two-dimensional, like black gauze draped over a thin line of light in pale yellow and salmon. In the foreground, silhouettes of long dead trees add the illusion of dimension and mark the drowning of a former shoreline. Where I stand, a foot of water covers two feet of soft, silty mud.

Silence, like a downdraft from the cosmic void above, creates an auditory setting that is equivalent to white noise. Then, from a mile away, a dog’s barking arrives with such clarity that I can tell which way he is facing. When silence resumes, my self-awareness comes into question as I am without sensory input—save the fantasy of vision.

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Cowboy Art in the University Library

Paintings with pale sky, wind-buffeted pines and loaded pack horses with wide rumps and blonde manes – ones just like these decorate ten thousand tavern walls. Or curl as calendars in filling stations in blow-away towns. Men in chaps slump over dollar-size belt buckles; their hats fold into conventions of cowboy. This artist painted a Navajo-red thunderbolt on one saddle blanket, an accent to trail-dust hues of boredom. What the armed horseback renegades who occupied the Malheur Refuge had in mind when riding out with an American flag for TV cameras.

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A Clandesence of Angels

I live in the lavender gut of a horse, a beating heart just beyond the wall. And beyond that two old ladies sip tea on a white porch in the crabapple South, hoping for something that might squirrel up out of the ground, the age-old ground, the Southern ground, the ground at the top of a hill: a thin line of angels listening all boneless and hospitable from above, managing nothing with their tiny, modest, angel hands, hands that might just as well be days of the week. The long-gone Civil War is wearing a small red-and-gold cap once worn by an organ grinder’s monkey.

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Your Words Still in This Place

soon after we parted
but then against the General’s command
we drove the boy out beyond the salt flats
to the northern edge of the mountains
where he said for a thousand years
no one would wake him

you spoke you remembered
how he could not grow a mustache
not like the revolutionaries and caudillos
he could not clear his lungs
in the desert air
we stoned him for taunting the Chihuahua
stolen from Arango himself
but he loved his family name and honor
more than all men

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In Praise of Windmills

As a single bird fixed in motion pins the sky to itself
remorse grows freely along the wetlands where compromised waters
breed few and far between flowers of great beauty and the human brain
spews soft gray clouds cloudy with truth

I am that river that cleanses—
the invention of a self set apart in ignorance of its own choosing
to be the not music and the not poison
a fluid dynamic of ceaseless production forsaking the concerned landscape

and a bitter end

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Confluence

The cowboy entered on a gray horse. Wearing a white Stetson,
with tan hands, and tight jeans. He rode up to a Walmart
in Eagle Point, Oregon to buy dog food. He heard
a woman scream, pointing to a young man riding off
on her bike. The cowboy cantered after the bike thief,
threw his lasso, brought the kid down, tied him
to a tree and called a policeman who thought
the capture was totally slick.

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Breakfast Club

Orion’s slow tumble from winter’s black
announces our day’s sunup meal, the birds and me;
finches are first to pick-peck fall’s bounty.
Sagging branched apples offer their exposed flanks
to the songbirds’ mixed tape this December morn’.
Flap-flitting from appled branch to next sweet tidbit.
A furtive dance of
jab, glance, nibble, glimpse.

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Sanctus

I doubt your existence
not your suffering

In your tall houses I have seen you
the site of execution

your electric throne

and lofty stone arches exquisitely formed
echoing your screams

Walking this morning barefoot in the garden
I watched your handiwork

a green bottle fly

resting its metallic halo
on a leaf of my beloved apple tree

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